One of the best benefits of working for an airline is staff travel, or nonrevving (traveling as a non-revenue passenger). That’s usually standby, and with flights full it’s been harder than ever. One of the best perks is premium cabin travel when seats are empty. American Airlines is eliminating Flagship First class because that cabin has often been mostly empty – but that means nonrev travelers lose out on the very best perk.
There are numerous rules that go along with flying so-called ‘free’ (there are often fees for international travel, and for some there can be tax consequences as well).
One of the stranger ones on American Airlines is that employees cannot book conflicting paid travel and non-rev travel. In fact, they aren’t even allowed to list for non-rev travel on American is they have paid or mileage award tickets with the same origin and destination within 24 hours on another airline like Delta.
- Even if you cancel your paid or award travel first, you aren’t allowed to list with American 24 hours before or after the time of that reservation.
- Ostensibly this is because the non-revenue passenger had been holding space that might have been sold to someone else, and so there’s potential revenue loss to the company. But that’s exactly what they allow revenue passengers to do now that most fares have eliminated change fees (and they sell refundable tickets!). And they don’t limit the rule to protect American’s revenue, it applies to space on United and Delta too.
Here’s why this really makes no sense. American Airlines won’t give ‘positive space’ travel (confirmed reservations) to employees who need to commute to their base city to start their trip. An employee might be based in Los Angeles, but live in Las Vegas. And they need to get to L.A.
So they buy a paid ticket as backup out of their own pocket to make sure they show up on time, and of course they try to non-rev on American.
If they make it onto an American flight, they’ll cancel the Delta space to use later (likely using it as a backup again for a later trip). In this case the employee potentially coming out of pocket helps American Airlines to stay reliable.
It’s actually smart for an employee to buy a backup itinerary now that most fares have no change fees, since they may be able to use one ticket purchase over and over again as a hedge, until they get unlucky and have to use that ticket to go to work. Of course buying revenue travel on Delta, and then cancelling the itinerary, isn’t costing American money and isn’t something American is likely to know about, either.